Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jul

Begin Your Summer Self-Challenge Now! (plus a Chance to Win a Free Copy of Primal Cravings)

Challenge YourselfEver since I was a kid in Northern New England, mid-July always had a foreboding kind of association. Sure, the black flies were good and gone by then. We were contentedly settled back into our routines of freedom and mayhem. It felt in some ways like summer had just begun! The calendar, however, said differently. Not only were we beyond the longest days of sunlight already, but we were moving into the waning half of summer itself. In a few short weeks, we’d be back in school, already plotting the following summer’s exploits. Though we can definitely take mid-July from a “half empty” kind of perspective, these days I prefer to see the time as an effective kick in the pants – a salient reminder that “hey, time to get going on all the remaining goals and schemes.” Seize the season, I guess you could say. With six weeks left in summer, who’s up for a self-challenge?

Lately I’ve been writing a fair amount about the psychological – even emotional – side of getting healthy. The fact is, knowing what to do/not do is only a small portion of the battle. From there, we too often get in our own way. In my decades of personal training, I’ve found it’s the inner dialogue that truly makes or breaks it for most people. It’s the inner guilt we stoke, the excuses we make, the laziness we justify, the fear we hide, the anxiety we attempt to contain. When they go unchecked, they usually end up containing us. If we can shine some awareness on the psychological hurdles we create for ourselves or if we can create an effective redirect away from our old habits toward better kick-start practices, we can break out of that containment. We can become the best possible versions of ourselves.

The key is to believe you deserve better. Deep, down-to-the-bones believe that you, yourself, the one sitting in front of this screen, the one you see in the bathroom mirror each morning deserve to know what it feels like to live your physical potential. In this one life you get, will you choose that experience? Will you give yourself the chance to know what you’re capable of? Ask yourself: would you be willing to make that chance happen now – in these next six weeks?

We can start by being honest with ourselves – about our “stuff” and do what we need to do to not let old emotional messages determine our future course. Then it’s time to invest in ourselves – to put ourselves right out there on the line with a hard and fast commitment. No nebulous, fuzzy, indeterminate aspirations need apply. Make it a clear cut vision – an event that you either finish or not, a set of numbers in your workouts you either make or don’t, a class you either take or don’t. There’s a reason for the concrete here. Not only will you feel more impetus to follow through, but you’ll reap the decisive rewards. Research has shown that depressed people tend to make more generalized goals. This vaguer focus, Dr. Joanne Dickson of the University of Liverpool and researcher in this area explains, results in “making it more difficult to achieve [the goals] and therefore creating a downward cycle of negative thoughts.” It’s probably not too much of a stretch to say vague intentions don’t do anyone’s self-esteem or self-efficacy any favors.

Every day we can cross off another day on the calendar. We can tell ourselves it just wasn’t meant to happen this day, this week, this month, this year. As the saying goes, “You said ‘tomorrow’ yesterday.” With the last half of summer, we can take advantage of that nagging sense of urgency. For most people, summer is the easiest time to take on a health goal. Longer daylight, better weather, fewer clothing hassles, more vacation time (for many people) means more opportunity and fewer excuses for getting in a genuine fitness routine – or bumping up what you have going.

This peak of summer is the time – your time. Take the first step toward a better life, a stronger and healthier and happier you. Drop the excuses at the curb. Take on the anxiety. Leave the guilt or undercutting self-concept behind. Get in the game, and make a clear, concrete commitment to yourself. Maybe it’s signing up for a 5K or joining a local sports team. Maybe it’s achieving a PR in OH squats or cleans. Perhaps it’s signing up for a dance class or biking a certain extended trail. Whatever it is, make it focused and measurable.

Primal CravingsSo, who’s up for making a “self-challenge” to finish out the summer? Are you on board? Got a goal that’s just itching to be scratched? List your fitness challenge that you’re committing to for the rest of summer in the comment section for the chance to win a copy of the new Primal Cravings book. (Because a good goal deserves great fuel…) Of course, making any intention truly public is an important aspect of succeeding. It gets you on the path, accountable from the start. Don’t let down your fellow MDA readers! I’ll be checking back come September around the time the 30-Day Challenge begins! Own this challenge – and snowball your success over the next six weeks into even bigger and better things. Isn’t that the way you want to begin your fall?

UPDATE: Congratulations to Jamie for being the randomly selected winner of this contest, and the lucky recipient of a copy of the new Primal Blueprint Publishing book Primal Cravings.

Share your Summer Self-Challenge, and good luck, everyone! The contest ends and a winner will be chosen at random at 5 PM PST, Thursday, July 18. Thanks for reading today, everybody.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. My goal is to get off the couch every day and do some type of exercise. i’m just beginning to eat paleo, but want my body to be fit. Really need to push myself!

    diane wrote on July 19th, 2013
  2. My goals are to clean up my eating (kick the dark chocolate and diet soda) and start exercising. I stay home with my 2 month-old twins and my other two children (3 and 5), so I’m aiming low- one walk (hour long) per week and one day of either sprinting or heavy lifting.

    Demi wrote on July 19th, 2013
  3. My biggest fall back is eating bread. Sandwiches are so easy when I forget to do something for lunch, and then I feel absolutely horrible afterwards. Not any more! I know my biggest obstacle will be myself but I know I have the strength to beat it. Here’s to the next 6 weeks!

    Court wrote on July 19th, 2013
  4. I have been cheating on my cheat day….it was supposed to be Saturday night only once a week….I keep making small excuses and cheat a ” little” here and ” little” there…… adds up. My goal for the next 6 weeks is to stick to the plan I already have and actually be true to myself about it.

    DREW wrote on July 19th, 2013
  5. My son texted me last night saying he was going Primal again for the next 42 days, after about a year and a half hiatus. How about me joining him? I thought about it and said Absolutely!

    So my challenge is to be about 80/20 Primal but I will NOT include any grains. For me, this also means NO beer. At 61, I’m 100 lbs overweight and seriously out of shape.

    I will also walk with my Dad (88+ years old) around the County park at least 3 or 4 times a week. Good for him and good for me:-)

    And support my son thru his Challenge too, last time he lost 85 lbs in 6 months. So I know this works. Time to stop dithering around.

    Linda KK wrote on July 19th, 2013
  6. I am committing to drinking less, and limiting myself to red wine when I do.

    Tanya wrote on July 19th, 2013
  7. Yeay Mark! Thanks for rallying the troops!! Just the extra incentive I needed.

    My goals in the next six weeks

    -go to my crossfit class 2x per week
    -complete my 5k training
    -sign up and complete a 5k the beginning of September or end of August.
    -buy new clothes for my awesome
    new bod
    -nap and read and rest as often as I want, need or can.

    Cheers y’all

    Aysen wrote on July 19th, 2013
  8. Mark, your challenge is music to my ears! I have signed up for my first distance triathlon (in early September). Training is going to be tricky because I have strained biceps and a strained left hamstring. My goal is to finish the event, even if I have to sit out the swim. Specifically I will train train sport specifically no less than 3-4 days a week, resisting the temptation to overuse strained muscles! I will be eating clean, meaning Primal leaning Paleo (no dairy unless it’s raw and no grain or legumes unless they’re sprouted).


    Paige Kimball wrote on July 19th, 2013
  9. Mark! Thank you for extending your challenge! I have signed up for my first Triathlon (Sprint distance). My goal is TO FINISH!

    Why is this a challenge? Because I have two strained biceps from maxing out on pull-ups and curls one peak week in May, and one strained hamstring from the best water-ski session of my life!

    How am I going to do it? CLEAN EATING (I’m even taking out all dairy unless it’s raw–including whey, and all legumes and grains unless they are sprouted). And ADEQUATE RECOVERY between trainings, while still moving daily.

    (As The Chop-Chop Girl I “Chop Veggies weekly, Eat Real Food & Move Daily, and Love Constantly” so l’m hoping this formula pulls me through!

    Paige Kimball ("The Chop-Chop Girl") wrote on July 19th, 2013
  10. I’m going to post my goal even though the contest is over:
    Starting next week I’m going to go to my fitness 360 crossfit training classes 3 times a week :) I’m out of school, so I have time to really kick my own butt :)

    Kyndal Meister wrote on July 19th, 2013
  11. I am posting my goal here even though the contest ended as I am just now reading this article. I will walk every day for at least half an hour and also will get more sleep, at least 8 hours every night. I have been doing kettlebell training 3 to 4 times a week but really need to work on moving frequently at a slow pace.

    veronica wrote on July 20th, 2013
  12. One summer goal is to begin the primal diet by eating strictly paleo for breakfast for one month, then add lunch in the next month, and dinner the third. I’m one week in and find that if I start the day paleo, I am finishing the day paleo with no real cravings. Awesome!! Exercise goals are to tighten up a solid routine that works for me. I’m still trying to figure this one out. Wish I could do crossfit but it’s just too expensive for me right now. I have lots of other things I can do tho; it just takes planning and executing.

    Retha wrote on July 21st, 2013
  13. I am psyched to have just read this also!
    I am starting a challenge for myself today.
    I need to lose 30 lbs.
    I go to yoga at least once a week, and yes, it is a great strength training/stretch kind of workout.
    I do cross training 2 x a week and I need to put some cardio in there.

    My goal is to look great by 60, which is 2 and 1/2 years away! It has taken me approximately 6 years to put this weight on. i am looking forward to eating primal and feeling better, less achy, hopefully!

    Ir seems like there a quite a few of us doing this challenge, so let’s build each other up!

    Good luck!


    Mountaingirl wrote on July 21st, 2013
  14. Love all of your goals! So inspiring :)

    I’m making mine weekly starting this week with tightening my diet, drinking only or less than 2 glasses of wine, getting to bed earlier (with summer here, been staying up way to late!) and committing to my 30 min daily walk….

    Pattig503 wrote on July 21st, 2013
  15. I’m 20 pounds down and feeling incredible thanks to 4 months of Paleo eating! Now it’s time to incorporate some exercise. My goals are:
    1. Drop 10 more pounds
    2. Use the Zombies, Run! app twice a week (first 3 weeks), increasing to 3 times a week (for the last 3 weeks)

    Ellie wrote on July 21st, 2013
  16. 100 pushups in one go

    james wrote on July 21st, 2013
  17. I have a doctor’s [alternative doctor’s] appointment coming up in a few weeks. I want my hormone levels to be as closed to balanced as they have been in the past when I’ve taken hormonal supplements. And I want to have slacklined at least once a week between now and then. :)

    SayMoi wrote on July 21st, 2013
  18. I recently joined an accountably group over Facebook called Butt Lift Babes. Every week we do a new glute workout Monday Wednesday and Fridays. On Tues thurs and sat we do at least 30 mins cardio. We are required to post everyday not only about our workout but inspirational and motivational to the group as well as healthy recipes. Of course this is an integrity group and the coach is keeping points but I told her not bother tallying mine because I really just want the motivation to be simply being stronger and feeling good. Next month the group will be doing abs! This seems to be working for me as my self challenge and I hope I can keep it up as we move into fall. I really want this eating more cleanly and exercise to be my lifestyle!

    Tammy Palaniuk wrote on July 22nd, 2013
    • @Tammy, i was looking for your facebook group, but couldnt find it. do you think you could post the link?

      diane wrote on July 22nd, 2013
  19. I don’t often post, but felt compelled on this one because my goal recently has been to do the opposite of this post: chill out sometimes.

    I tend to be very goal and sub-goal oriented and often get completely derailed and discouraged when I don’t meet one of the sub-goals. For example, I’ll commit to walking the dog (on a long walk) each day. Then, when a day comes when I cannot/don’t/whatever, it all goes down the drain and I’ll go a few days without walking her at all.

    I’ve been focusing this summer on relaxing sometimes, and chilling out with the micro-goals in an effort to achieve the larger goal of a more balanced life.

    Becca wrote on July 22nd, 2013
  20. My personal summer challenge is getting myself to the gym. I have the eating down. It’s routine now. And if I arrive at the gym my workouts are fine, but it’s the ‘getting’ there that I have a problem with. No more excuses! I’m off to the gym in the morning!

    Especially since I spent the summer waiting on others and in the end these people I care for do not make time for me. It’s time for me to make time for myself and make ME a priority. Not them.

    Judy wrote on July 23rd, 2013
  21. This web site really has all the info I needed about this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    Sem wrote on December 12th, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!